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“Please Turn Off the Internet. It Scares Us.”
The “ultimate gothic high tech figure”, Nicolas Sarkozy has put himself at the front of a Lost War: To Civilize the Internet. That’s right. The War on the Internet as we know it. What was it again that Bruce Sterling had said about him?
You’re Nicolas Sarkozy, you’re brilliant, you’re poly-ethnic, you have no ideology. You don’t care about any particular line, political line, and you have no alternative. You sucked all the air out of the political room, it’s just all about you.
During the G8 summit earlier this week, which Sarkozy helped to organize, the G8 nations agreed on a 22-paragraph pamphlet whose main objective, besides the obligatory lip-service to “protecting free spreech” is that “laws apply in cyberspace exactly as they do in the real world.”
What sounds like a respectable goal with straightforward intentions has dangerous implications like the “disconnection of citizens from the Internet and the censorship of online content”, which Sarkozy has already successfully implemented in his own country, as Jeremie Zimmerman writes in his “Call for Creative Action”, a response to the G8 Internet agenda.
As justifications to “civilize the Internet” (an euphemism for control) we hear things like cyber-terrorism and the old hat of “intellectual property rights”.
Cory Doctorow calls the G8 nations’ sudden interest in the Internet a “whitewash, an attempt to get people who care about the Internet to lend credibility to regimes that are in all-out war with the free, open net.”
It is this attempt that Sarkozy put himself in front of – pulling the cart as if there was no tomorrow!
Looking at the cultural change in the Middle East or Spain which was mainly organized online, The Internet is becoming a more and more uncomfortable reality in the eyes of statesmen and -women.
And, one has to note, that for all the self-assumed democratic and liberal stance of the West, its relation to the Internet is quintessentially heading in a dangerous direction.
Meanwhile in Iran…
In Iran, the government has been “civilizing” the Internet for quite a while and is ready for the next step. Since it takes too much time and effort to limit, observe and control people on a constant basis the leadership decided to disconnect from the Net completely and instead offer a national 100% controlled Internet.
Iran’s head of economic affairs, Ali Aghamohammadi called it “a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level,” and envisisons that
the new network would at first operate in parallel to the normal Internet—banks, government ministries and large companies would continue to have access to the regular Internet. Eventually, he said, the national network could replace the global Internet in Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries. (source)
It is, in essence the epitome of the Civilized Internet which efforts like those of Sarkozy are inevitably leading up to: Never before has state intervention been easier; The Orwellian dream of aspiring demagogues.
In this respect , China and Iran are – cynically speaking – way ahead of the “Civilization Process”. They see free online expression and international communication and sharing as a jungle which has to be cut down.
“For your Own Protection”
The fact, alone, that free sharing is impossibe to control makes the powerful lose their sleep at night. For they know – and justly so – that they can’t coexist with the uncontrollable flow of information.
Controlling the Internet can be seen as a desperate attempt to return to a “golden age” where the people were at the whim of the powerful and couldn’t do anything at all.
The Internet has reversed this balance. The people do what they want. The powerful have lost their power.
Paradoxically, it’s a psychological principle that sometimes, when people feel powerless, they begin to exercise their power very violently, thereby only proving the absence of it, a bit like in the case of “paradoxical undressing” where someone who is freezing to death and as a reaction pulls off his clothes, only accelerating his demise.
It’s the same with these attempts to control the Internet. It’s paradoxical. They reveal the madness of political, economical and ideological organisms which are struggling on all fronts because of their anachronistic nature.
France may say it wants to “protect intellectual property”, Iran wants to create a paradise of piousness, China wants to “protect the people” –
The important point here is to note that the given motives aren’t important. The justifications are irrelevant.
Many of us have fallen asleep somewhere in the 20th century, dozing off during public radio broadcasts and TV announcements, hunting for foldable tables and Tupperware.
Now, both people and leaders are slowly waking from their slumber, the first wondering where their governments went, the second furiously popping their last pills, control-freaks and power-junkies roaring themselves up to former glories while seeing just beyond their power-tripping haze that their main supply which they used to ferment out of the powerlessness and ignorance of the masses – is gone, never to return.
img: CC by Plastic Jesus
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